Hello world from the new improved Public Data team!

Welcome to the first blog post of the new Public Data Branch! The open data and data.gov.au team from the Department of Finance has merged with the Data Policy Branch (including spatial, NationalMap, ANZLIC - the Spatial Information Council) and the Digital Government Strategy team from the Department of Communications and the Arts, into a new branch at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.  This provides a wonderful opportunity to prioritise better sharing and publishing of government data by putting data policy at the very heart of the public sector.  Additionally, by merging the data and digital government policy agendas into one Branch we can also ensure that there are some very clear linkages between the work of the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) and our new team. We are all very excited by the new arrangement and look forward to continuing to work with you all.

Our responsibilities broadly include:

  • Data Strategy – we will be updating policy, guidance and information about government data for data users and data publishers.

  • Data Infrastructure and Government Engagement – making government data more discoverable and reusable. Includes data.gov.au, NationalMap and working with data initiatives across the public sector. Also, developing government capability and skills to create a more data-driven and evidence-based public service including both specialist and generalist data skills.

  • Data in the Economy – private and community sector engagement to work better with you to support economic growth, improved services and participatory policy development so we can all better respond to new challenges and opportunities.

  • Digital Government Strategy – supporting the Prime Minister, and Minister Fifield as the Minister Assisting for Digital Government, in their roles leading the policy for Government’s digital transformation and ensuring that digital innovation and entrepreneurship are fostered throughout the Public Service.

The Digital Government Strategy team will be liaising with the Digital Transformation Office, providing feedback and guidance on the Digital Transformation Agenda (DTA), identifying gaps and emerging issues in the DTA to develop a forward looking digital government agenda and engaging with public and private stakeholders to inform a forward digital government agenda.

You will also be pleased to hear that one of our a key activities will be to work with agencies to publish much more open data with a focus on improving quality, including the quality of data formats, APIs and descriptive metadata. We will be implementing a quality framework so you will be able to tell the quality of all datasets at a glance, more to come. We will also be including in the data.gov.au catalogue high value unpublished datasets which will help you to find them, even when they aren't publicly available yet. You can then talk to the data custodians to discuss how to appropriately access the data. We hope this will help government and the private sector to better identify existing useful data.

We are, as always, very focused on citizen privacy and security, and will make sure we work with all government agencies to have a consistent and high quality approach to confidentialisation of data. We take this very seriously and are undertaking new work to improve whole of government approaches to citizen privacy and security.

We will blog more about all our work in the coming months and look forward to your feedback on our strategy and progress.

Our Public Data leadership team is below, although we consult widely across the public and private sectors and other Australian government jurisdictions. You can contact us for more information at data [at] pmc.gov.au

  • Helen Owens – Public Data Branch

    • Tim Neal – Data in the Economy

    • Pia Waugh – Data Infrastructure and Government Engagement

    • Judi Dawton – Data Strategy

    • Peter Nettlefold – Digital Transformation Strategy


Many thanks,
The Public Data Branch!


Ambarish Natu (not verified) 29 October 2015

Looks like AAO resulted in the organization of the new Data Team !

Rosie Williams (not verified) 29 October 2015

Congratulations everyone. I look forward to your work.

Martin Brady - ... (not verified) 30 October 2015

Very excited to see this development. ABS is looking forward to working with you all.

Steven De Costa (not verified) 31 October 2015

Sounds neat :)

I'd love to see such a group providing more leadership internationally and forming stronger collaboration with other jurisdictions and local economies, particularly within Asia.

Australia has come a long way over the last three years and I feel this creates a responsibility to share knowledge and support emerging data economies. In addition, this will support stronger export opportunities for Australian companies innovating with data-first services and technology.

It would be great to hear more about where efforts of the team coordinate to support open Government as well. With the Open Government Partnership members meeting just last week I'm hopeful Australia will begin to again move forward on such an important international agenda.

Stephen Collins (not verified) 3 November 2015

We've all waited so long for this! I'm excited that it's now a reality.

Peter Timmins (not verified) 3 November 2015

Very welcome news that these responsibilities are now with the Prime Minister's department. But public data in PM&C and FOI and public records (Archives) in AGD creates a strange dichotomy. The FOI reforms of 2010 were a step in the direction of more pro-active release of government information. To view public data as a category separate from the publication requirements of the FOI act makes little sense. FOI for far too long has been categorised as lawyer's territory when in fact it should be guided in a policy sense by those who fully appreciate the importance of open,transparent and accountable government. The FOI act and information access arrangements need to be modernised,moved into the 21st century not stuck as at present in the 1980s.

The government's open government credentials bear a black mark at present over the 18 month saga of the attempt to abolish the Office of Australian Information Commissioner. And the fact that contrary to the decision of close to 70 other countries to stand aside rather than enthusiastically participate in the Open Government Partnership.

Reversing both these decisions and proceeding in partnership with civil society to develop a national action plan as required by OGP membership are necessary next steps on Australia's open government journey. One element of any such plan should be the review of FOI recommended by Allan Hawke three years ago.

Peter Timmins (not verified) 3 November 2015

What happened to my comment?

allan.barger 5 November 2015

Hi Peter, while we find our feet with this new blog platform we've got pre-moderation enabled. We'll endeavor to approve new comments within a 24 hour period.


Steven De Costa (not verified) 8 November 2015

Just a note on Peter's comment.

I see much difference between data and information. To bring in a formula presented in a recent CKAN meetup (credit goes to Florian Mayer):

The state change from closed to open data is about fundamentally changing the data collection and publishing paradigm before even worrying too much about encoding it for Government use as information, or using such information in the context of informing good policy and program outcomes.

Open Data Infrastructure for publishing is in place federally and for most state jurisdictions now. The pipeline of data that flows from agencies is now a great place to put some focus. Similarly, there is a pipeline of data from all but the biggest of councils that could be mapped into State jurisdiction publishing infrastructure (some of the largest councils may want their own infrastructure for publishing data).

FOI to me comes from a different side of the coin. We assume that Government has made informed decisions in the best interest of citizens. If we'd like to do some checking on our assumptions then we can request the information used within the context of such decisions. Or, to be more efficient and transparent by default, Government can openly publish such background information as part of it's process of executing decisions.

We should recognised that Government does generally have the delegation to make decisions on behalf of citizens.

So anyhoo - my 2 cents on why I think it is totally fine and likely highly appropriate for data to be with PM&C and FOI to be with Archives.

Linda O'Brien (not verified) 9 December 2015

A great initiative - now to link this with the research data world (led ably by the Australian National Data Service) where Australia is an international thought leader and we can truly do some amazing things to realize our Innovation vision!

Peter Johnson (not verified) 16 December 2015

This is a brilliant step forwards. One challenge will be with "public service" groups within all three layers of government that have been forced by budgetary pressures to "monetise" their data assets. This can't suddenly become free without backfilling the budget shortfall somehow. The old practice of course vs fine datasets (with fine coming at a premium cost) flies in the face of "open" data - but it may be required for a while I guess.

Richard Wardlaw (not verified) 13 December 2016

Congrats all....

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